Sue Ellson is an Independent LinkedIn Specialist (since 2008), a former banker and a gigster (a person who uses technology to attract aligned gigs). She has been recognised by the Social Media Marketing Institute (SMMI) as one of the top 10 LinkedIn Experts in the Asia Pacific Region in 2018 and 2019 and she is the author of five books on LinkedIn, Careers and Business, Hyper Local Marketing and Gigsters. She teaches at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) and provides training and consulting services to individuals, small, medium and large businesses, corporates, schools, universities, associations and government in Australia and overseas and attends between one and four events every week since 2001 to keep herself up to date.
Many independent and faith-based schools know that most new enrolments come from existing parents, school alumni (students who studied at the school when they were younger) and feeder schoolPersonally, I like to encourage schools to find students that live within a comfortable independent, and safe commuting distance from the school. The online world of LinkedIn can help in a variety of ways.
This article will provide a range of strategies that can be implemented without a cash outlay that'll start developing the school-parent relationship.
Once these parents are following you on social media, they can start to build trust and interest in the school and be your online ambassadors as well.
Remember the days when every television commercial invited you to Like a Facebook Page for a special offer? Well nowadays, how often do we consciously Follow a social media profile, if we are not asked to do so?
There are many schools that forget to ask this question or even list all of their social media profiles on their website (YouTube is often forgotten). Now is the time to start making it a habit to invite people to Follow your school on social media.
Handy tip! Add a page to the school website that is only used to showcase your social media profiles that are mobile, laptop, and desktop friendly. It needs to have big icons, plenty of white space and words that link to the school’s LinkedIn School Page, Facebook Page, Twitter Profile, Instagram Page, YouTube Channel, Google Review Link, etc.
Once you have the URL link to this page, generate a QR code and put this QR code on all of your publicity – brochures, boards, school bus, flyers, enrolment forms, event details, website listings, etc with a reminder to ‘Follow Us.’
How often is your LinkedIn School Page updated (the actual page information)? New sections have recently been added (like the Workplace Tab), and these need to be completed. The school website link needs to have https at the beginning.
Likewise, remember that existing and prospective parents will be looking for details of the Principal, School Board, Teachers, and others online and will make assessments of the digital competency (not literacy) of these individuals.
Do these profiles showcase the school in a good light? Do they include feature videos? Do staff have a school banner image next to their profile picture?
Handy tip! Ensure the LinkedIn School Page (not a Company Page) is fully up to date and that all Senior Leaders and anyone on the Enrolment Team have completed LinkedIn Profiles that include school information and a feature video as a minimum.
Social media requires people to listen as well as speak. So rather than always think about what your school can say online, think about what your school can listen to and support online.
Does anyone from your school engage with the content of local feeder schools? Does anyone share information from a feeder school with your school audience? Do any of your senior leaders Follow any local schools and Like or Comment on their Posts?
If your school engages with a feeder school, do you encourage them to post about it online and @mention your school so that the school profile can respond?
Rather than thinking about what your school can say online, think about what you can listen and support, too.
Handy tip! Prepare a list of local feeder schools and their social media profiles and consider bookmarking their profiles and engaging with their content on a monthly basis. Consider asking senior leaders to Follow these schools and engage directly themselves (it is good to know what is happening and can be good for professional development as well).
LinkedIn Events can be created by an Admin of the LinkedIn School Page. Each school should have at least three Admins for the LinkedIn School Page and these people can invite their Connections to attend an event (they can send up to 1,000 invites per week).
If people say that they are attending an event, this will then showcase that event on the person’s LinkedIn Profile, so every time someone looks at that person’s LinkedIn Profile, it will say that they are going to (or went to) the School’s Event — excellent free publicity! Once several people have registered to attend, the LinkedIn algorithm can promote it to ‘like-minded’ people who may also be interested.
Ask your Admins to invite up to 1,000 Connections per week to attend each event. For anyone who is not a Connection who registers, the Admin can invite them to Connect and then invite them to Follow the School Page. Follow up with everyone who registers via email and invite them to follow your school on all of your social media.
Ideally, I recommend that all schools run LinkedIn Workshops for senior students (second last year of secondary school) so that students can start building their network before their final year and maintain school, local and international relationships well after their time at school. Many alumni, parents, and friends are not aware of the value of LinkedIn.
By hosting an event at the school and teaching these individuals how to use LinkedIn, you're not only sharing knowledge, you're also increasing their digital competency and potentially the relationship between students and their parents and caregivers.
At the LinkedIn Workshop, you can show people how to use your school's QR code to follow all of your social media profiles and at the same time, use the LinkedIn App on their mobile phone to connect with one another on LinkedIn hands-free. This activity can create a lot of casual conversation and engagement.
By showing individuals how to use LinkedIn, you're not only sharing knowledge, you're increasing their digital competency.
Handy tip! Consider asking the careers and marketing staff or an independent LinkedIn specialist to run a LinkedIn Workshop at your school for alumni, parents, caregivers, and friends and include the main QR code for all school social media profiles in the presentation and invite them to use the LinkedIn App on their mobile phone to connect with one another hands-free.
Although LinkedIn was created in 2003, it has really only become more widely used since Microsoft acquired it in 2016. The rate of regular monthly use has increased significantly in the last three years. Tracking down alumni who have not mentioned your school on their LinkedIn Profile can be very time-consuming.
But if you have a LinkedIn School Page, you can match graduating year alumni with your list and then try and track down the remaining alumni, invite them to attend an event, or at least, update their LinkedIn Profile and choose your school from the drop-down box in the Education section of their LinkedIn Profile.
This gives you a ‘reason’ to reach out to them without saying, ‘please send your children to our school.’ If you can offer value, even if they are no longer within range of the school, they may know other people who may be interested in the event. Again, anyone who lists your school on their LinkedIn Profile will be ‘showcasing’ it to viewers of their profile and this is free 24/7/365 promotion of your school.
Handy tip! Make an effort to reconnect with alumni that are likely to have school-age children and invite them to include your school on their LinkedIn Profile and invite them to an event at the school so that they can reconnect.
Remember to be sensitive in your approach as some alumni may have a negative association with their school life and may not wish to mention the school on their LinkedIn Profile. It may be a good idea to talk to some people who have personal relationships with that cohort of alumni to avoid reaching out to anyone who does have a negative perspective.
As you can see, all of these suggestions are gentle ways to help parents and prospective parents and caregivers connect with the school, both online and in-person in a gentle and educational way.
It is not about going on an aggressive recruitment drive in any area, but about engaging and being present so that when the decision time comes, the prospective parents and caregivers have all the information they need and the existing parents and caregivers can be kept up to date.